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July 07, 1989 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-07-07

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

,PURELY COMMENTARY

Babylon

Continued from Page 2

ander's death, however,
when his empire was divid-
ed, the Babylonian Jews
were separated from the
Jews of Eretz Yisrael for
the first time.
After the fall of
Jerusalem in the year 70,
Babylonia became, and for
centuries remained, a
center of Jewish scholar-
ship devoted to the study
and interpretation of the
Torah. Owing to the prox-
imity of the Aramaic-
Syriac districts, the
Babylonian Jews adopted
the Aramaic dialect, which
remained the daily
language of the people for
more than a thousand
years, until the ninth cen-
tury when Arabic became
the popular language. In
the course of several cen-
turies the Targum to the Bi-
ble and the Babylonian
Talmud were produced in
Aramaic.
The Arab conqueror of
Babylonia appointed in ex-
ilarch (chief of the exiles)
by the name of Bustanai,
who received high
privileges and became the
founder of the succeeding
exilarch dynasty that serv-
ed as a bond of union
among all Jews. The heads
of the Babylonian
academies, situated in
Sura and Pumbeditha,
were selected for their of-
fice by the prominent
scholars of the period, but
the selection had to be
ratified by the exilarch,
who was believed to be a
descendant of king David.
They were referred to as
Geonim
and
Rashe
Yeshivah, and
the
academies they were
heading were spoken of as
the pride of Jacob.
Students from various
countries flocked to the
Babylonian academies
during the geonic period,
which ended with Rav Hai
(939-1038), son of Rav
Sherira Gaon.
As a mark of recognition
of the incalcuable in-
fluence of Babylonian
Jewish scholarship, the
prayer Yekum Purkan is
still recited as part of the
Sabbath morning service
in behalf of "our scholars
and teachers . . . in the land
of Israel and in the land of
Babylon, the heads of the
academies and the chiefs
of the captivity . ."
There is much more to our
addendum and the Babylo-
nian concepts. Paul Lewis,
with the excellence already
accredited to him, also wrote
about the Tower of Babel.
Therefore the need here to

34

FRIDAY, JULY 7, 1989

draw upon the Jewish factors.
Birnbaum's Concepts provide
the necessary historical
recollections:

Tower of
Babel

,

T

TB);n

-: •

The Torah relates that
the descendants of Noah,
after the flood, said to one
another: "Let us build
ourselves a city and a
tower with its top in the
heavens; let us make a
name for ourselves lest we
be scattered all over the
earth . . . So the Lord scat-
tered them all over the
earth, and they stopped
building the city. For this
reason it was called Babel,
because there the Lord
confused the speech of all
the earth" (Genesis 11:4-9).
The phrase "its top in the
heavens" has been inter-
preted as a Babylonian
figure of speech in the
sense of a very high tower,
similar to the description
of the Canaanite cities as
"great and fortified to the
heavens" (Deuteronomy
1:28). Ibn Ezra's comment
on Genesis 11:4 reads: "It is
probable that they were
neither so foolish as to
believe that they could as-
cend to heaven, nor were
they afraid of another
flood. They merely wanted
a central and conspicuous
city which would ensure
them fame:'
Modern
scholars
generally assume that the
reference is to a Babylo-
nian temple tower, a step-
temple or ziggurat. An an-
cient ziggurat in Babylon
existed already in the se-
cond millennium before
the common era. It had
eight stories, and was refer-
red to as the "house of the
foundation stone of heaven
and earth:' It was like a
step-pyramid, about three
hundred feet high above
the foundation. The top
was reached by a stairway
leading from terrace to
terrace.
It was begun by Ham-
murabi and developed by a
number of other kings;
Nebuchadnezzar com-
pleted it in the sixth cen-
tury before the common
era. The tower-temple has
been regarded by ar-
chitects as a stage in the
development of minaret
and spire.
It has been observed that
the biblical story cannot
mean that the erection of
the tower was the only
cause of the diversity of
languages. It shows rather
the futility of human at-

tempts to maintain unity
by material means alone,
excluding God. From the
earliest times the splendid
buildings of Babylonia
were among the most
remarkable achievements
of human power and pride.
Hence Babylon was seen
as the emblem of grandoise
ambition and despotic
arrogance.
History, traditions, legends,
archeology are embodied in
the remarkable Paul Lewis
NYTimes article. My appen-
dages should, I believe, also
magnify it into an important
Jewish essay. Meanwhile, we
owe a debt of gratitude to
Paul Lewis for what he
assembled in brilliantly
researched reporting.



Iron Guard

have cited the 1941 life
sentence he received in
absentia by the non-
Communist, pre-World War
II Romanian government.
A declassified U.S. Army
Counter Intelligence Corps
(CIC) report of January 6,
1950, described the Iron
Guard/Legion as a "rightist
group very similar in
organization and
character to all the
extreme-right shock
organizations that have
flourished in Europe bet-
ween the first and second
world wars.
The derogatory sense
usually attached to the
word Legion or to its
members, the Legion-
naires, is based on the
undemocratic principles
on which this associstion
functions and to the

criminal methods it nor-
mally used to eliminate its
opponents or to further its
political ideology.
The expose of the Iron
Guard is important as a war-
ning of the murderous group's
activities, that it works
underground training youth
in the Nazi fashion with
Hitler salutes.
There are assurances in
Washington that the Depart-
ment of Justice keeps on the
alert to prevent a continuity
of terrorism by Iron Guard
and Hitler admirers. That is
why the Dennis Debbaudt
revelations retain the validi-
ty of warnings to authorities
on this continent and to the
need to be on guard general-
ly against the spread of anti-
Semitism from foreign
sources.



Continued from Page 2

secute

Trifa, and an
American public that
demanded answers to the
questions of how and why
Nazi war criminals came to
America, Valerian Trifa, as
he was now known, was
charged in 1975 by the U.S.
in a denaturalization suit.
In the spring of 1980,
Trifa took a break from his
trial preparation to meet
with Robert Miles. Miles is
the former head of the Ku
Klux Klan in Michigan.
Miles was convicted in 1970
of civil rights violations
arising from the bombing
of Pontiac, Michigan,
school-buses and served
five and a half years of a
nine-year sentence in
federal prisons in
Michigan and Illionis.
Miles was indicted in
1987 by an Arkansas grand
jury for Seditious Con-
piracy for his alleged in-
volvement in a racist
scheme — including
murder and an armored
car robbery — to over-
throw the United States
government. He was ac-
quitted. Miles mentions
these meetings in his
newsletter From The
Mountain. He wrote in his
March/April 1981 issue (in
an article that promotes a
racist view of Jewish
global strategy), "We
monitor the flow of Jews to
brazil. We discussed this
movement with His Ex-
cellency, the Archbishop
(Trifa) Valerian . ."
In August 1980, Trifa
voluntarily surrendered
his citizenship papers,
avoiding a trial govern-
ment attorneys say would
have shown Trifa's role as
editor of an Iron Guard
newspaper and would

I NEWS 1

Absorption System
Poor, Immigrants Say

Jerusalem (JTA) —
Representatives of im-
migrants from the Soviet
Union and other countries
charge that unless the
government and the Jewish
Agency move quickly to im-
prove social services and
create jobs and housing, the
opportunity to attract the
next wave of Soviet emigres to
Israel will be lost.
The Israeli government and
Jewish Agency officials in
charge of absorption services
refute or dodge blame for
many of the most serious
charges, but acknowledge the
need for a serious review of
the absorption and housing
system.
One new answer to the
housing problem was unveil-
ed by Finance Minister
Shimon Peres, who offered a
two-year, $120 million plan to
provide public housing and
subsidized mortgages for
needy immigrants.
But the plan has already
run into resistance from
Diaspora Jewish leaders, who
are being asked to raise $80
million toward the $120
million goal.
At a closed-door meeting of
the Jewish Agency-
government coordinating
committee, Peres received a
flat "no" from Jewish Agen-
cy leaders already pressed for
cash for their own programs.
"The Jewish Agency in-
dicated that it was giving a
high first priority to aliyah
and klita (immigration and
absorption) and would max-
imize the resources available,

and anticipated substantial
amounts for absorption, but
that it was not in a position
to make commitments for the
housing necessary in the
future," said Norman Lipoff of
Miami, Fla., chairman of the
budget and finance commit-
tee of the Jewish Agency.
Lipoff said the Jewish
Agency "was looking for the
government of Israel to pro-
vide the necessary housing."
Speaking to Diaspora and
Israeli officials who share in
the leadership of the Jewish
Agency, Minister of Construc-
tion and Housing David Levy
seemed to scold them for tur-
ning down the government's
housing plan.
"I became sad during the
meeting of the coordinating
body last night," said Levy.
He said that Jews always liv-
ed in hope of a large wave of
immigration from the Soviet
Union, but that now that it is
here the Jewish Agency is
talking about deficits.
Former refuseniks Natan
Sharansky, Yuri Shtern, Yuli
Edelshtein and others have
described a system of
bureaucratic mazes and indif-
ferent workers, and of baffled
immigrants left largely to
their own devices.
The Council of Olim
Organizations, a private
group representing a number
of immigrants rights groups,
says a government program
for "direct absorption" has
"failed miserably."
Under the plan, the govern-
ment gives cash grants for
new immigrants.

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